Are the trials of cottage life worth it? Should the family separate? Should you loaf or go active? A doctor totes up the score
DR. ARTHUR W. HAMJuly11945
WHAT’S THE BEST HOLIDAY?
Are the trials of cottage life worth it? Should the family separate? Should you loaf or go active? A doctor totes up the score
DR. ARTHUR W. HAM
HOW’D you enjoy your holiday?” I asked Bob Wright.
His face was a mosaic of sunburn and mosquito bites, but it still registered disgust.
“Holiday!” he snorted. “Listen—we had everything from the farmer’s wife coming down with acute appendicitis the night we arrived to my being stuck three days on an island, with a burned-out bearing in the motor boat, living only on fish, and mosquitoes living on me . . . Jean’s still in bed, getting a rest from the nursing and cooking she had to do . . .”
“How about the kids?” I asked. “Did they have a good time?”
Bob brightened a little.
“They thought it was pretty exciting,” he admitted. Then a touch of pride came into his voice. “Everyone’s kids can’t have a Robinson Crusoe for a father and a Florence Nightingale for a mother on their holidays, you know.”
And when he went off there was a zip to his step that hadn’t been there before. Perhaps he had a better holiday than he knew.
And that brings up the question: What constitutes a good holiday?
A holiday should be something different from a rest. Of course some people are physically tired and so need physical rest. But there are far more people mentally tired—they are worn down to a nub by the months of monotonous narrow life that precede their holiday. They are tired and bored with doing the same thing every day, wearing the same kind of clothes and seeing the same people. So the first requisite of a holiday is that it should provide a change. Ina sense, then, one should have a holiday from, something.
But a holiday should provide something more than just a change. Why, for instance, do mild-mannered men tell librarians that they don’t mind how “tough” a detective story is? Probably it is because modern civilized life provides few outlets for the more primitive psychological drives, the same drives that enabled our forefathers to hew cabins out of the forest and to protect themselves and their families from the elements and wild animals. Of course in ordinary civilized life there isn’t much chance lor this sort of thing—except on holidays. That’s the one chance to give pioneering instincts a good workout. That’s why Bob got a spring in his step, why he had a better holiday than he thought.
It was not only his children who got a kick out of the fact that for three days he was a modern Robinson Crusoe. Bob had more than a little pride in the fact that he had survived the adventure. As time went on he thought more and more often about that holiday. It was the one he told stories about when swapping holiday experiences with friends.
As to whether his wife really had such a terrible holiday I wouldn’t be so certain. True, she had to go to bed when she returned home, in order to rest up from the holiday. She’d had a nerve-racking time, both because she was worried when Bob was marooned on his island and because she’d had the hard work and responsibility of nursing the farmer’s wife and looking after her own children while Bob fished.
True, too, she’d had a break in routine. But it was not enough of a break—and it was accompanied by more than usual household work; harder work, at that, because of the lack of city conveniences in the farm home.
And yet she also talks about this holiday . . . she calls it a horrible example. But the truth is she is proud of having met the emergencies that arose. She, too, had done a job of pioneering. Her self-confidence is improved and in that respect alone her adventurous holiday was worth while.
Should Families Scatter?
THIS brings up the question of how successful family holidays can be. - Is it possible for parents and children to have a holiday that is satisfactory for both, if they spend it together? Or is it sometimes better, when parents can afford it, to send the children to one of our good summer camps that have become so popular?
Of course there is one way of sending children to a summer camp with it still being a family holiday, using family in the broad sense of the word. That is by letting children holiday with their grandparents. Their summer houses often resemble summer camps very closely. They literally bulge with children. And the grandparents seem to take it in their stride.
Some families have special problems. For example,
what about the reshuffled family? 1 remember one like this that holidayed up north many years ago. One day we were paddling by their island in a canoe when we heard a terrific hubbub. Then there was quiet and a male voice asked, “What was that particular row about?”
“Same old thing,” a tired female voice replied. “Your children and my children fighting with our children.”
And what about the family in which there are, say, four girls and one boy, and the girls want girl friends to visit them during the holiday. Quite a dose of femininity for the lone boy!
Obviously there are a great many special situations in which it is advisable for parents and children to break up, to some extent, for at least part of their holidays.
One example, and it is an important one, is the case of the overly protective mother. She worries too much about her children and communicates the worry to
them. She is panicky if they are near the.water and in a complete state of nerves if they are in a boat. Yet she’s even worse if she’s away from her children. She’s afraid that whoever is looking after them will slip up and she can imagine disasters by the dozen.
If one thought only of her, one might say she’d better choose the leaser of two worries and stick by her children for the holiday. But what about the children? They’ll never learn to swim properly or become competent at handling boats or doing any of the other things that buck up a child’s ego. They’ll be ill-prepared to adjust to other children. They’d be better off away from so much protection. At a camp they’d learn to swim, the rules of handling boats and lifesaving. And they’d be with other children of their own age and have a chance to adjust to a more normal sort of existence.
Flven if parents aren’t overly protective, a summer camp for part of the summer is often a good idea. And after they’ve gone to one children are often much more competent to enjoy a family holiday, and to let their parents enjoy it.
But what about the average family? Even if the
children go to camp for part of the summer, should the parents arrange to spend their holiday with the children? The evidence suggests they should, because so many do. Why do they do it?
For one thing, particularly if a husband has a very demanding job, or if the wife and mother has been doing a great deal of war work, or even has a full-time job, it’s the only chance that parents and children have of really getting to know one another. And furthermore it’s a chance for children and parents to see each other under more favorable circumstances than usual. In the city children often come to look upon their parents as disciplinarians. But on a summer holiday they learn that parents are people they can have fun with. Even planning such a holiday creates a great sense of family unity. And it’s probably for these reasons t hat a great Canadian institution has grown up for the family holiday—the summer cottage.
Now it must be admitted that by having a family holiday in a summer cottage, a wife and mother often
makes a very considerable compromise. Indeed many women say it’s scarcely a compromise, it ’s just plain “unconditional surrender.” “But,” they say, “our husbands and our children like it so we go.”
A summer cottage isn’t all jam. In fact there are literally hundreds of disadvantages that could be listed. They include thieving mice and squirrels, and porcupines which might break in during the winter and play havoc. They include possible leaky roofs, clogged stovepipes, dry pumps, and mosquitoes by the thousands. They include health hazards: contaminated water; food poisoning because of improper facilities for refrigerating food or protecting it from flies; the problem of getting pasteurized milk and of keeping it from turning sour; the hazard of too much sun, or of chopping off some part of the body by inexpert handling of the axe.
And then, compared to the city, everything is so inconvenient. Why, with all these disadvantages, do people continue to go to them?
Because they supply to some extent the two chief ingredients of a holiday: a change from routine and an outlet for the
Continued on page 49
Continued from page 7
pioneering instincts. For a too brief t ime a husband becomes a builder. He adds something here or takes away there. He paints and varnishes. He cuts wood and even catches a few fish now and again.
Of course there’s more to a summer cottage t han t his. I n fact the best times that are had at summer cottages aren’t had in the summer at all hut in the winter, when their owners sit talking about them, around fires in the city. That’s when most of the building is done too. Partitions are torn down and put up again in new sites, fireplaces are moved from one corner to another and screened-in verandas are constructed by the dozen. Some nights the noise of hammering and sawing gets so loud one can hardly follow the conversation. I know a couple of men who are building a boat this way. One of these winters they are going to launch her. That will he a night.
So summer cottages have their advantages as well as their disadvantages. Further, they seem to eventually exert their appeal on each successive generation.
But supposing a married couple have no children. Or if they have, they’ve sent t hem off to their parents or to a summer camp. What then? Should the husband and wife have a joint holiday
or should they get away from each other for a while? it isn’t, safe to generalize.
For example, there is the story about the advanced thinker on marriage relations who gave a lecture just, before the vacation season and suggested that separate holidays were almost a requisite for a successful marriage. He made a great impression on one husband in his audience who got in touch with him afterward to discuss the matter.
“I just hate to go away and leave my wife all alone for two weeks,” he explained, “She’s too darned goodlooking.”
The lecturer explained that, mutual trust and confidence was one of the fundamentals of a successful marriage and t hat overpossessiveness was one of its greatest enemies.
The husband looked impressed. So he said, regretfully, “I suppose then we’d better take separate holidays. J certainly want to make this marriage a success.”
The lecturer was smiling approval at his decision when he suddenly had a thought. “Just how long have you been married?” he asked.
“Two weeks,” replied the husband.
As a general rule, about the best that can be hoped for in joint holidays is something less than either husband or wife would like if they could choose for themselves. For example, a husband may want to spend his holiday hunting or fishing and that doesn’t fit in very well with what most wives want on
Continued on page 51
Continued from page 49
routine. Sometimes, of course, it is possible to
work out almost ideal joint holidays. ¡ One doctor I know has a real passion I for boats. He can satisfy his pioneering j instincts just by taking a cruise. At the J same time his wife has a good change ! from their routine. I know another man j who likes nothing better on a holiday than to play golf. As long as any sum! mer hotel that his wife chooses has a good golf course his holiday is guaran: teed. But in many instances such satisfacj
tory compromises can’t be made. Sometimes no compromise can be made and then separate holidays are indicated. A good rule to follow about making a compromise is: Don’t make one unless it is made happily and willingly. A dour husband or wife who unwillingly goes along on a holiday effectually ruins the fun for everyone. He Can’t Have Fun
But what about people who just
can’t enjoy a holiday? This group is one of the saddest
products of our culture. We all know people that belong to it—people to whom work has become the only thing in life. For example, there’s Jim. He has a
moderately good position with a big organization. He carries a substantial amount of life insurance. - His business superiors are always telling him not to work so hard. What those who work for him say had better not be said. He is in his late forties and his face is
grey and tired-looking. When he comes homefor theweek end at Saturday noon he always brings a portfolio of work with him. Often on Sundays he runs down to the office for a while; there’s always something special that has turned up. When he goes to his summer cottage he can never stay more than a day or so and he brings his portfolio up there too. He isn’t interested in games, in his wife or in his children. Work has become his whole life. What has happened to make him this way; devoid of all capacity for enjoyment? Some New Skill Needed
He is the victim of what psycholo-
gists call a compulsion, and it is very easy in our culture to develop a compulsion about work. We admire and even glorify the hard worker, and this is as it should be—though there’s something to be said for laziness as well—the hard workers are the producers. There is another psychological factor
that often operates to keep such people from enjoying their leisure. Because some pleasures are sinful it is relatively easy for some people to gradually develop a forbidden association about even the most innocuous pleasures. Work becomes almost their only alternative to guilt. If any reader suspects that he or she
has such a compulsion then it’s a mistake to go on an idling holiday. That compulsion will have to be favored—but it can be made to contribute to the holiday. If you j usually work with your head try j working with your hands. Build something. Acquire a new skill. And the first thing you know you’ll forget to bring home that brief case full of work and instead do some of that winter building. Perhaps the two men who are building a boat would let you help. They really need a hard worker. I their holiday, an escape from household
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.